The FCC agreed to open the "white space" - the broadcast spectrum used by over the air television - to use by others apart from the regulated television stations, by a vote of 5-0 yesterday. This is a major accomplishment that companies such as Google, Microsoft, Dell and Hewlitt-Packard have been lobbying for over the past couple of years.
As Larry Page noted in the Official Google blog, "This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications."
The WIA details:
"TV white spaces will increase accessibility to more reliable broadband networks, known as "mesh networks." Mesh networks are self forming networks created by consumer electronics devices. Devices will simply find each other in the same way they find Wi-Fi hot spots today and broadband traffic can be routed through devices based on consumer preferences. For example, mesh networks will allow users wireless connectivity in the business environment. Easily accessible connectivity to office networks will generate efficiency in routine business processes-from printing documents remotely to transferring data to a client during a meeting.
Mesh networks also help to create connectivity in dead zones. These networks make it possible for the most common electronic devices to communicate with each other to resourcefully locate and establish a connection in nontraditional scenarios—like in a tunnel, or while riding the subway. "
The opportunities have been called "wifi on steroids" - as this spectrum would provide cheaper and more powerful wifi broadband access. There is a good video explaining the white space oportunities offered by the Wireless Innovation Alliance.
There have been promises of services being available within 90 days of it being opened up for use so we will have to wait and see what develops, but given the penetration is better and the service is wider - the use of this broadband methodology could dramatically increase internet access to many at a lower cost and using less power to do so.
Microsoft's Bill Gates sees white space as helping WiFi "explode in terms of its usage, even out into some of these less dense areas where distance has been a big problem for Wi-Fi."